D.A. Bragg, Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and Assemblymember Lee Announce New Legislation to Combat Hate Crimes

November 6, 2023

The Hate Crimes Modernization Act Will Close Current Loopholes in State Law

If You Have Been a Victim of or Witness to a Hate Crime, Call 212-335-3100

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, and New York State Assemblymember Grace Lee today announced the introduction of new state legislation (S7737), the Hate Crimes Modernization Act. The new legislation increases the list of hate crime eligible charges from 66 to 97, which would enhance charges and certain sentences.

“Hate crimes have profound physical, emotional and psychological effects that jeopardize the safety of New Yorkers and tear at the fabric of our communities,” said District Attorney Bragg. “This legislation will strengthen our laws to reflect a clearer and better understanding of what constitutes a hate crime and give us more tools to bring hate crimes charges in the broad range of cases we see in our practice. I am proud to stand together with Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Lee to combat discrimination and hate and I thank them for their work on this bill.”

“As we witness an unprecedented rise in bias-motivated crimes against Jewish, Muslim, Asian American and LGBTQ people, it’s of utmost importance that New York closes the dozens of loopholes in our hate crime statute to send the urgent message that hatred won’t be tolerated in our state,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’m proud to introduce the Hate Crimes Modernization Act (S7737) with District Attorney Bragg and Assemblymember Lee, which will give prosecutors the necessary tools to take appropriate action against hate. With this bill, we can protect New Yorkers of differing backgrounds.”

“I am an Asian American legislator representing Chinatown, a community which has been at the epicenter of anti-Asian hate. Addressing hate in all its forms is important to vulnerable communities and the legislature needs to ensure our laws are equipped to do that,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee. “I am proud to join Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal to introduce the Hate Crimes Modernization Act to modernize New York’s hate crimes laws to fight the severe rise in hate taking place in New York. Every time a hate crime goes unrecognized, its victims are denied justice, and hate is further normalized and allowed to spread. We understand that there is no single solution to eliminating hate; this is a complex issue that requires a diversified and holistic approach. This bill is one necessary step to help address hate and hold those who commit hate crimes accountable.” 

Since 2015, New York City and New York State have seen an increase in hate crimes, and last year New York City saw a record high of 650 reported hate crimes. As hate crimes have risen, the nature of the incidents has increasingly varied, which means the antiquated penal code creates major loopholes that prevent prosecutors from appropriately charging and ensuring accountability in bias-related incidents. For instance, current New York State hate crimes law excludes key charges, such as Gang Assault, Making Graffiti, Sex Trafficking, Labor Trafficking, False Reporting, Criminal Possession of a Weapon, and certain other sex crimes. This new legislation will provide key updates to the current New York State hate crimes statute to ensure greater accountability for New Yorkers who commit offenses motivated by bias and prejudice.

The legislation was announced at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office alongside Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, New York City Councilmember Keith Powers, the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (NYC OPHC), the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), the National Action Network (NAN), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Community Security Initiative (CSI), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York (UJA-Federation), the Asian American Federation (AAF), the Muslim Bar Association of New York (MuBANY), the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), the Hispanic Federation, the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, the Union Baptist Church, Emgage New York Metro, Mother AME Zion Church, Homecrest and other community leaders.

“Acts of hate have no place in New York, and it is critical that we stand up, united, and protect those who are victims of horrible, hateful acts,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “The alarming rise in hate-related incidents cannot be ignored, and the Hate Crimes Modernization Act will help strengthen our ability to protect communities that are targeted. I’m grateful for the leadership of D.A. Bragg, Assemblymember Lee, Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and local community leaders here today.”

“New York City has seen an intolerable increase in hate crimes over the past year, and we must act. Over the summer I called for modernizing the state’s hate crime statue to close certain loopholes, and this legislation does just that. It will provide us with another tool to ensure these crimes are prosecuted appropriately and our city remains welcoming to everyone. Thank you to District Attorney Bragg, State Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and Assemblymember Lee for leading on this critical issue,” said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “The Hate Crimes Modernization Act adds dozens of serious crimes to the penal law ensuring greater accountability for those who commit violence with hate in their hearts. Our city has seen a record number of hate crimes, and we will have more tools responding to ignorance and prejudice. I support Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Grace Lee’s bill and encourage our Legislature to pass it.”

“Hate crimes are especially insidious as they don’t only impact the victim but can shake and spread fear in the entire targeted community,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Prosecutors need the ability to enhance bias motivated offenses whenever they take place, and the Hate Crime Modernization Act would allow us to do just that. I commend Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Grace Lee for introducing this bill and encourage our Legislature to pass it.”

“Queens is the ‘World’s Borough’ with the most diverse population of any county in the nation,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “Hate-mongers and those who hurt others based on their own prejudices have no place here — or in New York. We welcome the effort to amend and expand the existing hate crimes statute so we can appropriately prosecute those who do harm. Thank you to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., Senator Brad Holyman-Sigal and Assemblymember Grace Lee for their leadership on this legislation.”

“Criminal activity motivated by ignorant bias and insidious hate must always be met with a strong response from our criminal justice system, and no New Yorker should ever be the victim of crime simply because of their identity,” said Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “Yet as we witness hate rear its ugly head across the world across and the five boroughs, our statutes must meet the moment to give law enforcement the needed tools to deliver justice in these terrible cases. I commend the sponsors, Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Lee, as well as my colleague District Attorney Bragg for working together to develop this legislation to expand the list of hate crime eligible charges and in turn, create an expanded path to justice for innocent Staten Islanders harmed because of their identity or their beliefs.” 

“As the Consul General for Mexico in New York, I stand against discriminatory practices in all their shapes and forms. It is deeply disheartening to witness hatred in a city and a state celebrated for their diversity, multi-ethnicity, and multiculturalism,” said Mexican Consul General Jorge Islas López. “District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s legislative initiative reflects our shared aspiration to curb violence stemming from our human differences and broaden the scope of actions considered as hate crimes. With this reform, District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the New York lawmakers are ensuring a safer place for all, where inclusion and respect for our fundamental human rights are not optional; they are the law.”

“Over the last few years, through its Anti-Asian Violence Task Force (AAVTF), AABANY has been closely monitoring and studying the sharp rise in hatred and violence against the New York AAPI community,” said Yang Chen, Executive Director, Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY). “We have worked closely with the Manhattan D.A.’s office and have shared several proposals for reform, including legislative reform. D.A. Bragg’s office has been open and receptive to our suggestions, and we commend the time and effort the office has put into drafting proposed changes to the hate crimes laws. We believe the current proposed statutory reforms to the New York hate crimes law represent a step in the right direction, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Manhattan D.A.’s office to bring about effective hate crimes prosecution and enforcement.”

“For over three years now, the Asian American community has been in a crisis of xenophobic hate crimes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately for too long many of those hate crimes have gone unrecognized in New York,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation. “The legislation that D.A. Bragg is announcing today is a welcome and much needed step in the right direction to combat this crisis and help protect all peoples in New York. As New York’s AAPI population continues to grow, we will continue to stand up against hatred towards our community by sharing resources and supporting each other. We are proud to stand by our leaders in government today in this effort and we look forward to working together to stem this rise in hate and ensure a safer New York for all.”

“At a time when reported hate crime incidents across the country have once again reached record highs, with anti-Jewish hate crimes at a number not seen in decades, a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach will be needed to address these extremely disturbing trends,” said Scott Richman, ADL New York/New Jersey Regional Director. “We welcome efforts by Assemblymember Grace Lee and State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal to give the issue of countering hate crimes priority attention in New York, with strong support from Manhattan D.A. Bragg and Manhattan Borough President Levine, and we look forward to serving as a critical partner in this important work.”

“We are thrilled to bear witness to the work that D.A. Bragg has been doing behind the scenes, to ensure the safety of our AAPI communities that have long been under attack and faced with hate crimes,” said Raymond Tsang, President, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. “Hate crimes intensified during the pandemic, and it is a daily issue that we struggle to tackle as a community. Our communities often voice that crimes perpetrated against us are not being properly categorized and are often ignored. We applaud D.A. Bragg for taking the time to listen to our communities and taking time to work up a plan with our legislators that will address the many issues that our communities are facing.”

“With the rise of anti-Asian hate, antisemitism and Islamophobia, this hate crimes legislation is welcomed and comes at a timely time in our city,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Senior Adviser, Emgage New York Metro. “I commend D.A. Bragg for prioritizing this legislation to safeguard our communities.”

“The strengthening of hate crimes legislation is long overdue. We have advocated for many hate crime victims where the criminal justice system failed to deliver justice for them,” said Don Lee, Board Chair, Homecrest Community Services. “We appreciate and applaud D.A. Bragg’s leadership and commitment through real substantive changes to protecting New Yorkers, especially the often-marginalized members of the immigrant community.”

“As a Jewish communal leader, I’m outraged that there’s an over 400% increase in antisemitic hate crimes in just the last few weeks. Nobody should be targeted because of their faith. These crimes are alarming and deeply personal. I applaud the efforts of District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Assembly Member Grace Lee, and State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal for their sponsorship of this important legislation that addresses this heinous trend,” said David G. Greenfield, CEO, Met Council. “Their action is a testament to New York’s unwavering stand against hatred and our collective commitment to uphold the diversity and inclusivity of New York. Together, we are sending a resolute message that our community will not tolerate antisemitism or hatred in any form.”

“Open and meaningful dialogue is a necessary catalyst to root out hate within our communities,” said Thamanna Hussain, President of the Muslim Bar Association of New York. “In instances where law enforcement must be involved—this new legislation provides the required tools to effectively respond to bias-motivated crimes. Given the current heightened atmosphere and the rise in hate crimes, MuBANY fully supports this new legislation and believes the expansion is particularly necessary to protect minority communities.”

“I am honored to stand with the Manhattan D.A. in his efforts to protect New Yorkers against hate crimes,” said Dr. Hazel Dukes, President of NYS NAACP. “As a civil rights leader, I fought to protect our people from violence motivated by hate and racism, and I believe our government must do everything in its power to do the same. I want to thank the D.A. and all of the electeds supporting this new legislation.”

“UJA-Federation of New York strongly supports this legislative effort to expand the definition of hate crimes in New York State,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York. “This action sends the strong message that New York intends to protect New Yorkers against all forms of intolerance and hate. The New York Jewish community is experiencing a huge surge in antisemitic incidents (39% increase from 2021 to 2022) and clearer guidelines will assist law enforcement and the judicial system to properly process hate related incidents. We thank D.A. Bragg, Manhattan Borough President Levine, Assemblymember Lee and Senator Hoylman for introducing this legislation, and we are grateful to Governor Hochul for her enduring leadership in combating all forms of hate.”

Under D.A. Bragg’s leadership, the Office has increased hate crimes prosecutions by 24 percent per year since 2021. In 2022, the D.A. Office’s Hate Crimes Unit was expanded with $1.7 million in funding from the New York City Council. With that investment, the D.A.’s Office has been investigating and prosecuting more hate crimes than ever before. The Office currently has 17 cross-designated prosecutors, including two supervisors, and four senior investigative analysts. In response to the community’s needs, the Unit has also hired additional staff members and introduced specialized training to enhance investigations, expand community outreach, strengthen victim support services, and increase cultural and linguistic competencies.